Health Report: Preventing false positive results with new COVID-19 antibody test

Health Reports

A rush for COVID-19 antibody tests may have set us back in our efforts to accurately test for the virus.

Too many false positives proved detrimental in helping to know who has had COVID-19. Many universities and labs across the country are working to change this.

Test after test after test is failing to accurately test for COVID-19 antibodies.

The problem? The need for these fast, accurate and available tests.

“When it comes to our immune system’s ability to fight this long-term, the antibodies are key,” said Dr. Ashley Frazer-Abel, PHD, Immunologist at the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

An antibody is protein in the immune system that fights infection.

“They are also key for us knowing whether you’ve had the infection which is where I’ve stepped into the process,” said Dr. Frazer-Abel.

To create an accurate antibody test, you have to create a protein that antibodies will be attracted to. So the researchers grew something called a spike protein.

“One of the things that makes it special is that we’re testing for two different proteins on the virus,” said Dr. Brian Harry, MD, PHD, Pathologist from the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

When a patient’s blood is drawn, the blood is tested to measure antibodies and antigens.

If the test is positive, the color of the sample changes. The results are available within two hours and most importantly have a 99.6% accuracy rate.

“We want to make sure that people who are concerned about maybe having had the virus or are very cautious, have access to a test that will give them likely a very accurate result,” said Dr. Harry.

The information they get from this test may also help determine how long antibodies will last.

“It does seem to be relative to how strong your disease was. If you’re hospitalized, you’re on ICU. You’re probably going to come out with antibodies,” said Dr. Frazer-Abel.

Experts believe that the answer will be antibodies against COVID and will last months, not years.

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